Kevin Bell

68 Lessons From The Book Perennial Seller (Book Highlight)


68 of the best lessons, directly from Perennial Seller

  1. It's hard to see how it could be otherwise when the top "thought leaders" and business "experts" deceive us with shortcuts and tricks that optimize for quick and obvious success. Creators resort to hacking bestseller lists, counting social media shares, or raising huge amounts of investor capital far before they have a business model. People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don't, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification.
  2. The 48 Laws of Power, didn't hit the bestseller lists until a decade after its release. It has since sold more than a million copies and has been translated into dozens of languages.
  3. Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, by controversial blogger Tucker Max. It received a $7,500 advance from a small publisher after being rejected by almost every other imprint in the business, yet went on to sell an upwards of 1.5 million copies and spend six consecutive years on the bestseller lists.
  4. The founder (Of American Apparel) once told me his goal was to make clothes that people years in the future would still be buying in vintage clothing shops.
  5. Anyone who studies the history of literature, film, or art can see that while luck is certainly an important factor, perennial success is also the result of the right decisions, the right priorities, and the right product.
  6. The more books we read, the clearer it becomes that the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence. —Cyril Connolly
  7. Even as someone who loves the challenge and creativity and rigor of marketing, I'm alarmed at how many creators gloss over creating. They fritter away their time on Twitter and Facebook-not killing time, but believing that they are building up followers to be the recipients of their unremarkable work. They have meticulously crafted brands and impeccable personae crafted through media training. They spend money on courses and read books on marketing to develop sales strategies for products they haven't even made yet. All this churn may feel productive, but to what end? To make something that will, eventually, disappear with the wind?
  8. As my mentor Robert Greene put it, "It starts by wanting to create a classic." Phil Libin, the cofounder of Evernote, has a quote I like to share with clients: “People [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product never make the best product."
  9. that powerful work is a struggle and that it requires great sacrifice.
  10. "Writers write.” You don't wait to get hired on something to write.
  11. If you are trying to make something great, you must do the making: That work cannot be outsourced to someone else. You can't hire your friends to do it for you. There is no firm that can produce a timeless work of art on your behalf for a flat fee.
  12. "Lots of people," as the poet and artist Austin Kleon puts it, “want to be the noun without doing the verb."
  13. Because there is a truth that has gone unsaid for too long. Because you've burned the bridges behind you. Because your family depends on it. Because the world will be better for it. Because the old way is broken. Because it's a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Because it will help a lot of people. Because you want to capture something meaningful. Because the excitement you feel cannot be contained.
  14. Expressing some truth that others have been afraid to articulate in any form. Capturing some experience and preserving it for posterity. It's the ability to remake the planet, to alter the course of history, to escape death, to enter the minds of other people.
  15. From sacrifice comes meaning. From struggle comes purpose. If you're to create something powerful and important, you must at the very least be driven by an equally powerful inner force. If there is anything to romanticize about art, it's the struggle and the dedication required to get it right and the motivating force that makes it all possible.
  16. Art is the kind of marathon where you cross the finish line and instead of getting a medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by the shoulders and walk you over to the starting line of another marathon.
  17. "Focus on the things that don't change."
  18. Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it's very hard to fail completely. That's the thing people don't get."
  19. As Hemingway supposedly said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
  20. Anne Lamott put it in her meditation on writing, "bird by bird.” You don't have to be a genius to make genius -you just have to have small moments of brilliance and edit out the boring stuff.
  21. Avoid this potential miss by articulating and defining the specific audience while you are creating -yet don't make it so specific that the only member of that audience is you. You must be able to see them, to empathize with them, to understand and even love them. Not that this audience will be the only thing you have to have in mind as you create (and as you'll see later, having it in mind is no guarantee of reaching it), but it must be in there, rattling around somewhere.
  22. A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?
  23. One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten as a creator was from a successful writer who told me that the key to success in nonfiction was that the work should be either "very entertaining" or "extremely practical."
  24. I'm always wary of any description that resembles "It's like _______ but with _______." I'm wary of it not only because it's inherently unoriginal, but also because, again, it forces the creators to compete with the very dominant entity they are supposedly improving on.
  25. Stuff that's boring now is probably going to be boring in twenty years.
  26. The hunger and drive to create something great, coupled with the sincere belief that you can do it, can very quickly trip into delusion and hubris if you're not vigilant. The more nervous and scared you are-the more you feel compelled to go back and improve and tweak because you're just not ready- the better it bodes for the project.
  27. Nobody creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else. Nobody.
  28. The songwriter Max Martin, who has written for everyone from Céline Dion to Taylor Swift to Bon Jovi and Adele, subjects his nearly finished songs to something he calls the LA Car Test, where he blares the song through the stereo of a car racing up and down a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. How does it sound? What does it add to the experience?
  29. A product that doesn't have word of mouth will eventually cease to exist as far as the general public is concerned.
  30. As Jonah Berger, one of the leading scientists on viral sharing, has put it, "[Companies] live or die by word of mouth."
  31. "Sell one," he says."Find one person who trusts you and sell him a copy. Does he love it? Is he excited about it? Excited enough to tell ten friends because it helps them, not because it helps you? Tribes grow when people recruit other people. That's how ideas spread as well. They don't do it for you, of course. They do it for each other."
  32. people choose what others are choosing.
  33. Hey, as many of you know, I have been working on______for a long time. It's a ______that does _______for ________I could really use your help. If you're in the media or have an audience or you have any ideas or connections or assets that might be valuable when I launch this thing, I would be eternally grateful. Just tell me who you are, what you're willing to offer, what it might be good for, and how to be in touch.
  34. Before he was one of the biggest, bestselling rappers in the world, 50 Cent was a crack dealer on the streets of Jamaica, Queens. One of his strategies was to pay his crew to rob rival drug dealers, take their stash, and then give those drugs away for free as samples around the neighborhood. Then, as the only game in town, with a number of clients hooked on his product, he captured the entire market.
  35. "finding your addicts."
  36. that it's essential for debut authors to give away at least some of their material, even if only temporarily. "They've gotta do something to get an audience," he's said. "Free and cheap helps." So does making the entire process as easy and seamless as possible.
  37. Tim Ferriss has posed an interesting related question: "If TED charged for their videos from the beginning, where would they be now?" The answer is probably closer to "obscurity" than “obscurity" the conference has racked up billions and billions of views since the first videos went up. Why should our work be any different?
  38. You won't get the chance unless people have heard of your stuff."
  39. "Having content that is free and shareable is an important part of the equation, though it's important to emphasize that it's only free to the reader. My writing costs me a lot to host and maintain because I don't monetize it with ads. I make that clear on my web-site, so it communicates to the reader two things: 1) that I'm sacrificing for my writing, which means that I write because I have something to say, and 2) I'm sincere with my message.
  40. What is the right price to create a perennial seller? This is going to be controversial, but my answer is: as cheap as possible without damaging the perception of your prod-uct. (And by the way, with the exception of ultra-high-status pre-mum brands, I think damaging the perception of your product through price is very hard to do.)
  41. The reason for this is that a classic of any kind has to chat acteristics: 1 It's good, and 2 it has been consumed by a lord people (relatively, at least). One of the best ways to build a readership, viewership, listenership, user base, or customer base early on is by making it cheap.
  42. The cheaper it is, the more people will buy it and the easier it will be to market. Yes, there is such a thing as a Veblen good (the more it costs, the more people want it) but more commonly demand is a function of price.
  43. What we've created is a central fact of existence to us--after all, we made it. But to most other people, it's optional. They can easily do without our work. A savvy creator embraces this reality and makes taking a chance on it as easy and frictionless as possible for the audience.
  44. One of the best ways I found to connect with people was very simple: I'd notice who was already wearing our clothes or wearing similar products. I'd email them to say hello and invite them to the factory and give them personal tours (something other companies couldn't do). I'd send them nice emails and free products. If a celebrity needed something for a tour, we might custom-fabricate it for them and not charge (again, since we had our own factory, we could do something other companies couldn't. I wasn't asking them for anything I was making offers.
  45. Authors are inundated with requests for blurbs from other authors; mean-while, generals. academics, and CEOs are asked much more rarely. Who would be better to go after, then? Try to find the people least likely to get a request from someone like you, and approach them first, instead of going where everyone else is going.
  46. Taking time off work or hiring a babysitter so you can write fifty personally crafted emails— that’s hard and unsexy. Paying for a plane ticket and a hotel so you can give a talk at a major nonprofit- that's time and resource intensive. Joining a group or a cause to build relationships you can draw on later hard, unsexy, and difficult to quantify.
  47. In my definition, a platform is the combination of the tools, relationships, access, and audience that you have to bear on spreading your creative work- not just once, but over the course of a career.
  48. He built a podcast that he distributes directly through his email list. He then created an exclusive, high-ticket newsletter that gives financial advice through email. He created a members-only book dub. He wrote several more books, selling many of them directly through his website and thus amassing not only hundreds of thousands of email addresses, but physical mailing lists and payment information for his fans as well. It's now a huge platform that, by his estimation, grosses more than $2o million a year in revenue.
  49. The best way to create a list is to provide incredible amounts of value. Here are some strategies to help you do that:
  1. I asked Noah, who has built multiple seven-figure businesses off his email lists, how he'd recommend Betting your first email subscribers. To get your first one hundred Subscribers, Noah recommends doing this:
  1. Never dismiss anyone You never know who might help you one day with your work. His rule was to treat everyone like they could put you on the front page of the New York Times .. because someday you might meet that person.
  2. Play the long game- It's not about finding someone who can help, you right this second. It's about establishing a relationship that can one day benefit both of you.
  3. Focus on "pre-VIPs" _The people who aren't well known but should be and will be. It's not about who has the biggest mega-Phone. A great example for me was meeting Tim. He hadn't sold millions of books then and didn't have a huge platform. Now he does
  4. The best marketing you can do for your book is to start writing the next one.
  5. The best way to become a true comedian, filmmaker, designer, or entrepreneur is to never stop, to keep going.
  6. Colonel Parker, the infamous manager of Elvis Presley, came up with the idea to sell "I Hate Elvis" memorabilia so that Elvis could profit from his haters too. Everyone should know who their detractors are and rile them up every once in a while just for fun.
  7. Jay Z has a famous line that says if you don't own your masters, you're a slave (which is partly true.) Can I help other artists or creatives achieve what I have achieved? (Be a consultant, coach, or publisher/label head/producer.)
  8. Academics consult. Literary authors teach at universities. Hemingway and Steinbeck both appeared in advertisements; Hemingway even wrote them. Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell both contributed to a campaign for Chipotle.
  9. (Google Docs, which was built by acquiring the company Writely), another to email my editor (Gmail, built internally), and another to waste time with (You-Tube, also an acquisition).
  10. My empire didn't corrupt my art; it funded it. In fact, that book ended up far outselling the previous one.
  11. What I mean to say is that sometimes the best way to monetize your work and we do have to make money to live- is not from the work itself, at least not in the short term. We know that perennial sellers can be immensely profitable over time, but they need foom to grow, and what better place to grow them than in the fertile ground of your own budding empire?
  12. Very few people get into creative fields to do one thing.
  13. Diversity and productivity are critical parts of that type of longevity. But they require the ability to experiment, to try new things, and to support a body of work, which in turn requires the development of independence and infrastructure. Short of a Trust fund or a patient, deep-pocketed patron, there is only one way to do that. A platform
  14. To do our work without a platform is to be at the mercy of other people's permission. Someone else must fund us, someone else must give us the green light, someone else must choose to let us make our work. To a creative person, that is death. Having an audience that we own? That we're bound together with like hand and fist? That is life. Yet as I've said before: This does not just happen. It must be built.
  15. So don't wait. Build your platform now. Build it before your frst great perennial seller comes out, so that you have a better chance of actually turning it into one. Build it now so that you might create multiple works like that. Build it so you can have a sareer-so you can be more than just a guy or gal with a book or movie or app.
  16. As Nassim Taleb puts it, “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet."
  17. We got into it because we didn't have a choice. We do what we do because there is nothing more rewarding than the artistic and creative process- even if those rewards aren't always financial, even if they don't accrue as quickly as we might have originally hoped.
  18. Mike [Herrera]and I became friends over time, and one afternoon, walking down the street in Seattle, we stopped in a vintage guitar store where Mike had bought a guitar many years earlier. The owner of the store recognized him. It'd been at least a decade since they'd seen each other, and he asked how things were going with the band. They talked about the group's long career. The owner beamed, his store having played a small role in it. Then the owner's son came out and began to gush: "You're Mike Herrera! From M×Px! I have all your records!" This was the reason the owner had been excited- he'd heard his son listening to the music of a musician who'd once been to his store and gotten to impress his son in the way that all fathers ache to do. Mike, out for an ordinary afternoon walk, had bumped into the multigenerational impact of his work. He'd met a living, breathing embodiment of his perennial success. And I was lucky enough to be standing there and watching as these three people all experienced a tiny yet deeply personal moment that I can only imagine added meaning to the struggle that went into that success. That's the truly fortunate part of being able to do creative work for a living, It's the best goddamn job in the world.